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On Nominations, Good News, Bad News and a Blame Game

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By Al Kamen
Monday, March 30, 2009

The White House is pushing hard to get the Senate to confirm more nominees before Congress heads off Friday for a two-week recess. White House data indicate that the administration has recovered from that little Daschle-Geithner problem and will set the modern world indoor record for the number of nominations and confirmations by March 31.

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As of Friday, Team Obama even has more total nominations and confirmations, 104 in all, than the vaunted Reagan personnel juggernaut of the 1980s. But the accompanying chart shows the problem: While the Reagan team had a total of 95 nominations and confirmations, 61 of its candidates had been confirmed by April 1. The Obama folks, barring a miracle, won't match that.

(Loop Fans will recall that Bush I figures are not really comparable, because there is less urgency to clean house in a friendly GOP-to-GOP takeover. Bush II had a much-shortened transition because of that bothersome Florida recount. And the Clinton transition was a debacle from even before Day One -- yet there were almost as many confirmed nominees as Obama has.)

"Obama has clearly caught his stride in announcing and nominating candidates for Senate confirmation," said Paul Light of New York University. "Now the question is whether the Senate can keep up. The logjam is broken at the White House and has moved up Pennsylvania Avenue."

Not so, a senior Senate aide said Friday. "All but two nominees who are pending in the Senate arrived here mid-March. It is March 27th," he said in an e-mail. Democratic committee chairmen "have been moving them as fast as they can once they get here," he added. "For nominees who have had their hearings and will be reported next week, there is some chance of confirmation if the Republicans" don't put up any procedural roadblocks. Light agreed that the nominations went up late.

"The vast, vast majority of the Obama nominees were sent up after mid-February," he said, "but that doesn't give the Senate an excuse to delay." And even at that pace, "say 15 or so a week, we're talking another six to seven months or so to get all 500 Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominees into the pipeline," he said.

For more data on Obama's political appointments, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/headcount.

BRAZIL BECKONS

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! The congressional spring break is upon us. That means the skies will darken for two weeks with military jets winging our lawmakers and their spouses to faraway places in search of elusive facts.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, is leading a group of colleagues -- including Democratic Reps. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), Maurice D. Hinchey (N.Y.), John Salazar (Colo.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) and GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander (La.) -- on what looks to be an excellent trip down to Brazil. Most are taking spouses. Unclear whether there are seats available, but this one could be worth trading votes for.

A preliminary schedule called for the group to arrive Saturday. Since it's the weekend and it's a long flight, there was beach time scheduled at a fine hotel on Copacabana Beach and then an evening dinner.

On Sunday there's the visit up Corcovado mountain to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue (this is an obligatory stop so as not to offend the Brazilians) and other sites and then a dinner cruise along the Ipanema-Copacabana beachfront.


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